Sunday, December 18, 2011

NASA Super Sports, 1952

Just came across a neat shot of a JPL (Jet Propulsion Lap) Motorsports Club meet from 1952 on the NASA website.  Most of these space pioneers had MGs, but there's a Crosley Super Sports and a Ford Model A (probably a hotrod) nestled in among the brit iron.  Plenty of cool stuff in the background including a Willys wagon and a Hudson Hornet.
Here's a blowup of the Super Sports, or click on the main photo to see it bigger.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Comics and Crosleys

Sometimes the world gets awfully small.

Such was the case today when Georgia Crosley nut Pete Berard posted a page of a comic strip about a Crosley convertible that looked just like mine, asking if anyone knew the source.  I didn't know where it came from, but I recognized the artist instantly: underground comix legend Justin Green.

Justin Green started doing comics around 1970 and is credited with creating the first autobiographical comic book: Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary.  He used to live not far from me in Winters, California, which was then also the home of underground cartoon legends Robert Crumb (Mr. Natural) and Robert Armstrong* (Mickey Rat). Green had a regular strip in Pulse! Magazine and also did a comic for the signpainter industry magazine - signpainting was his dayjob. 
I googled 'Justin Green Crosley' and quickly found the original source of the page: the June 2006 issue of Cincinnati Magazine.  A little more sleuthing and I managed to get a copy of the two page strip (click on the images for bigger versions):
Finding Green's comic strip reminded me that I'd actually put a Crosley in my own comic strip!  I snuck a CC sedan into the comic strip I did for my college paper around 2001:
This Crosley/comics overlap is probably not that amazing to most of you, but for me, it was all kinds of worlds colliding.  I have been a comics obsessive for 35 years - more than 75% of my lifetime.  I've drawn comics since I was about ten years old, and even worked as a professional comic artist for a while.   While other kids looked up to sports and movie stars, my heroes were cartoonists like Will Eisner,  Alex Raymond and Wally Wood.  Comics have probably shaped my life more than any single thing outside my family, so stumbling into a Crosley comic strip by a respected cartoonist - who used to live practically in my backyard no less - was pretty amazing.

Perhaps more amazing is that this isn't the first time the two worlds have collided.  An ultra rare Crosley-powered Bandini racecar popped up for sale about a decade ago.  The ad said it needed a total restoration (there was a tree growing through it) and didn't have a price, so I called, thinking that maybe I could swing it.  I was a little surprised at the price ($75K).  I was a lot surprised by the provenance: it had been Alex Raymond's car
If you don't know the name Alex Raymond, you know his work: Alex Raymond created Flash Gordon.  Raymond's sci-fi comic strip debuted in 1934 and promptly set the comics world on its ear.  An immediate success, Flash made Raymond a star.  His stories were imaginative and his draftsmanship was nothing short of incredible.  Raymond's art set a standard for adventure comics, and his style is emulated even today.
Raymond himself was a bit of an adventurer, and he began racing sports cars after World War II. He acquired a Bandini in the early fifties and liked it so much that he ordered a new Crosley-engined Bandini Barchetta from Italy in 1956.  Soon after ordering the Bandini, Raymond took his friend's new Corvette out for a spin.  Losing control on a rain-slicked Connecticut road, Raymond shot off the pavement, hitting a stand of trees 60 feet off the road.  He was killed instantly.  The Barchetta arrived months later, only to be sold as part of Raymond's estate.
Alex Raymond's Bandini sold quickly - even with the high price tag.  The owner completed an immaculate restoration and I found the pictures you see here on the Hemmings blog.  I wish I still had the 'pre-restoration' pics... that was some project.

When I learned of the Bandini's Raymond connection, I couldn't believe it.  I'd known that Raymond had been killed in an auto accident, but not much more than that.  Discovering that one of my heroes (I'd actually done a tribute comic strip called Alex Raymond in Junior High) had actually owned a Crosley-powered sports car was an incredibly exciting revelation - I'd found a connection to one of the best cartoonists who ever lived.   Not much, maybe, but I'll take it!

*To get really incestuous: Robert Armstrong provided the cover art for the Sol Hoopii LP which features 'I Like You' - the soundtrack to the Crosleykook movie.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Six Engines, One Wagon, a '37 Chevy, Two Siatas and a Couple of Dodges (More or Less)

You never know what's going to happen when you respond to an ad; I sure wasn't expecting the chain of events that started with a pile of Crosley parts and led to six engines, a complete 1948 station wagon, a 1937 Chevy coupe, two Dodge pickups, a wooden-wheel bicycle and TWO Siatas... all from one quick email about a Craigslist posting.
I couldn't resist: a Craigslist ad for a pile of Crosley motors, plus more parts, for sale an hour from my house, $995. Now I don't NEED more motors but who could ignore that ad? I sent an email when I saw the ad on a Sunday night, and the next morning the seller let me know that there were a half dozen motors, and that he'd just put the lot on Ebay, and that there was a 1948 station wagon that was also up for sale but not listed yet.

Turned out the guy was selling the parts for his friend who was getting toward the end of a battle with cancer and wanted everything gone so his family didn't have to deal with it. Not a fun deal.  He also mentioned that someone had called about the motors and that they were probably going to be sold the next day. Prepped, I called Lynn, the owner, to ask about the 1948 wagon.

Someone Lynn knew had fully restored the car about 25 years ago, driven it for a few years and then parked it.  Lynn had picked it up 12 years ago, registered it in his name and then also let it sit.  When he first decided to sell it (a couple of years ago) he'd had the rims blasted and painted, and put all new rubber on the wheels - other than that it hadn't been touched in over 20 years!  He said there was a small spot of rust on the roof above the passenger door, but that otherwise it was nice. He wanted $2700.  I had a crazy work week ahead, so that same night was the only time I could possibly go look at the car.  With visions of that dream 'barn find,' I hit the bank after work and sped toward El Sobrante. 

Barely an hour later Lynn was walking me through his carport.  He was moving a little slowly, but for someone with lung cancer he was doing great.  He was really sorry that he'd never gotten around to getting the Crosley running again - he thought it was a pretty neat car.
The wagon was straight and complete, but had been sitting outside for a very long time.  The bay area's salty air had not been kind.  The only rust-THRU (a nickel-sized hole) was over the passenger door, but there was a liberal dose of scaly surface rust on many of the exterior surfaces.  The interior metal was solid (the floors were beautiful) but the gauges and upholstery had cooked in the California sun.   My favorite part of the car was a really neat vintage accessory taillight on the back with 'stop' cast into the lens.  Sadly, the matched blue '70s California plates were no longer registered to the car, but the good news was that Lynn had non-opped it, so there would be no DMV fees due.  It clearly had been a nice car which just went to pot from neglect.
Lynn took me back to his storage to show me the parts.  There were a lot of them: six motors, nearly as many transmissions, an axle or two, plus several radiators.  There was a guy coming tomorrow morning to look at the stuff, and I advised Lynn not to go down too much on his price- $995 was a good buy for all that stuff.  I told him to call me if they didn't sell and I'd help him find a buyer.
While we were there Lynn opened his workshop door to show me his pride and joy: a 1937 Chevrolet business coupe that he'd owned for 42 years. It was a California car from new and Lynn was the second owner.  It had a neat accessory truck bed that was sold through Chevy dealers when the car was new - Lynn had driven almost halfway across the US to buy it in the early seventies.  The car still had its original inline six, with immaculate Nicson valve cover and sideplates and Fenton intake.  He fired it up and it ran so smoothly I almost couldn't tell it was running - until he rapped the throttle.  Just for fun he had a matching engine perched in the bed.  I saw an ancient 'Inliners' decal in the window and asked him about it.  Turned out that he's known Sacramento hotrod/kustom car legend Dick Bertolucci (also an Inliner) for years.
Lynn had all sorts of fun stuff in the shop: ancient engines for Overlands and Model Ts, tools that were so old I wasn't sure what they were for, and a wooden-wheeled Crown Bicycle from the WWI era.  He really liked that bike- he'd had a wooden-wheeled bike as a kid so he'd always wanted another one.  It was neat.
Out in the yard we passed two Dodge pickups - a 1939 and a '46.  Both seemed fairly straight, complete and nice - the '39 even had 1939 California plates.  Lynn said, "$3000 for the pair.  They gotta go."  I took a couple pictures to show to a friend.
We got back out to the Crosley and I confessed that I didn't want it.  He asked if his price was high and I told him I thought it was, considering the condition.  Turned out he was asking about what he'd paid 12 years ago, but he realized it was probably unrealistic.  He asked what I thought it was worth, I told him, and I also mentioned that I knew someone looking for a Crosley and that I'd send his number and the pictures along.  He said that'd be great.

I got home and called Lloyd.  I'd met Lloyd at the Crosley Meet in Buellton this past September.  he and his wife had pulled up Friday night on their way to a vintage Ford meet nearby.  He was VERY intrigued by the Crosleys and said they'd be back tomorrow after the Ford meet.  They showed up bright and early, hoping to find a CC sedan or wagon for sale, but as luck would have it, my Utah pickup was the only thing for sale at the meet.  Lloyd was interested, but I did my best to convince him that if he wanted a sedan or wagon he should hold out.  I also told him I'd help him find one and I'd been keeping my eye out ever since.  Sure enough, Lloyd was very interested in the El Sobrante wagon, so I sent him pictures and Lynn's phone number along with all the details I could remember.

I also called my pal Johnny Crasharama.  I met Johnny when I rented a warehouse from him nearly 20 years ago. We've gotten to be good friends and it's hard to remember that to a lot of folks, he's not a person - he's a legend.  Johnny has been a professional stuntman for 40 years and these days his 'day job' is running the Hell Drivers stunt show.  When he's not crashing into walls of fire or doing ramp jumps, he's collecting old cars.  He's got well over a dozen classics, ranging from a 1913 Model T, and a 1937 Ford business coupe hotrod to a 1947 Buick convertible, all of which sport a heavy dose of patina.  Those Dodge trucks looked to be right up his alley. He looked at the pictures and said he'd probably give Lynn a call.

The next afternoon I got an email saying that the motors had sold to a guy from Berkeley named Paolo, and that Lloyd had called about the Crosley.  The guy that had bought the motors had said he planned on keeping only some of the stuff and Lynn's friend suggested that I could call the guy if I wanted to buy anything he didn't want.  I didn't so much care about the motors, but I was intrigued by a Crosley guy in Berkeley - I didn't know there were any Crosley folks there.  I got the number and called.

"Hi, I got your number from the guy who sold you the Crosley motors. He said you might be interested in selling some of the stuff you're not going to use."

"Yeah, I got a lot of stuff.  What are you looking for?"

"I might be interested in the generator motors."

"That's what I wanted."
It turned out that the buyer was a sportscar mechanic named Paolo who wanted the motors for parts for a wrecked Crosley-powered Siata he was restoring.  He was surprised that I knew about Siatas until I mentioned that my friend Marty Stein had one.  He laughed.  "I was at Marty's place last weekend." Paolo's car is one serial number from Marty's, and he also has another, non-Crosley Siata.  We talked about Siatas and Crosley stuff and he invited me to come check out his shop in Berkeley.  He restores all kinds of vintage sportscars...  so, he has the job that I and many, many of my pals dream about.  I'm scheming on when I can make a trip down that way to take him up on the offer.

Now, a couple of weeks later and it's all said and done.  Lloyd spoke with Lynn and made him an offer he couldn't refuse.   It took him a few days to get up from Solvang to pick up the car, but he called me this week to say that he got it home and he is very happy with his project. 

Johnny drove up to El Sobrante and bought the trucks the day after I sent him the pictures.  Lynn had all the paperwork in order and even had receipts for engine work done on one of them - they'd been sitting for some time but Johnny says he's got spark on the '46 and expects to fire it up this week.  Lynn also sent Johnny home with an extra Dodge flathead, new bearings and a crankshaft.

I never could have imagined all of this coming out of a one sentence ad for Crosley parts.   But, I'm not surprised.  Crosley folks are interesting people, so you never know what will happen. I've met some wonderful people through the Crosley world, and Lynn is just the latest in a long line of really nice folks.  It's very telling that his friends are going out of their way to help him through this - that tells you a lot about a person.   

He's leaving his beloved Chevy to his son.  I'm sad to think that he will never get to see his other cars all dolled up by their new owners, but I don't think he minds.  He just seemed happy that it was all going to good home.   Lynn, I hope so, and god bless.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another Field Find: New Jersey Super Sports

Checked back in on Lazlobasset's NJ rust field find and discovered that he'd posted more photos, including a Super Sports that's doing its best to return to the earth before the crusher comes.

Hope some east coaster can save all these cars before they get crushed...

Dual Carb Crosley Motor w/Headers For Sale: $250 in PA

Just saw this motor posted for sale on the HAMB for $250. With that header and dual intake you couldn't go wrong at the price even if the crank is broken in half. Seller says the cam is not installed but it comes with, plus a pile of other parts including clutches, a tranny, an axle and more. Seller prefers not to ship, and the whole lot is in Newcastle, Pennsylvania.

Ebay HotShot Clown Car Back Again

This 1950 HotShot was the subject of the first post I made this year- it popped up on Ebay with another clown car back in January. Bidding went wild, reaching $8500. I'm not sure what happened, but apparently the high bidder came to his senses because here it is for sale again 10 months later.

Current bid is $3205, Buy it Now is $8K.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Resto Debate: HotShot and Super Sports Floor Covers

There has been a vigorous debate raging over at the Crosley Gang Yahoo Group for the past couple of days, begun when 'Cutworm' posed a seemingly simple query:

"All my Hotshots either have or show signs of carpet being glued to the floorpan.  I also have pics from Wauseon showing black carpets used. Is this right? What about the goofy cover over the trans-shifter assemblies?"

Determining what would be factory-correct is easy for almost any other auto of the period, but like so many other details of Crosley build history, there are no stats, no notes in the manuals or parts catalogs, and dang few factory photos. What were the floors of Crosley roadsters covered with when they came from the factory?  I'd always believed that they came with rubber mats, but I realized that I didn't really know.
User L. E. Hardee weighed in, saying that he didn't believe any Crosley came from the factory with carpets.  "Black rubber mats are what I have seen," he said, and then offered an interesting tidbit:  "The drive shaft hump was just paint."  Phil Rowland disagreed, noting that while rubber mats were correct,  the drive shaft hump was definitely covered.  Club prez Dave Anspach and Pete Berard came in on Hardee's side: uncovered hump.
Phil took it to the next level, actually digging out some documentation. Sure enough, Tom McCahill's 1949 Mechanix Illustrated review of the HotShot shows rubber covering the hump.  Jim Bollman jumped in with even more detail:

" regularly built Crosley ever was delivered from the factory with carpeting. That is not to say someone might have pulled strings to get a one off or a dealer may have added carpeting to get a premium price.

"The June 1951 Mechanics Illustrated shows very clear pictures of the interior and it shows a pebbly surfaces rubber mat that is one piece over the hump and all. I have seen the same material in a very original HS (have 35 mm slides around somewhere showing it). I also managed to salvage a small piece of the material from a mat that was beyond saving, for my files, it has a fiber material attached to the back side to absorb noise and retain moisture to insure a rusted out floor."
Then Phil went even one better, adding personal side to the story. "I looked over a NEW '49 Hotshot in a Crosley dealer showroom and remember it well.  It definitely had a rubber mat covering the tunnel.  It surprises me that so many people believe otherwise.  Must be they're too young to have been there back then.  I have advantage being 80 years old."  I did a little digging myself, and in a Crosley factory photo it sure looks like the hump is covered with a rubber mat.
Pretty amazing that the conversation started without a consensus and ended with that question definitively solved, details on the exact coverings used, and even including a photo of factory-correct interior from the period. 

As if that wasn't enough, the conversation then shifted to a discussion of the material on the storage area behind the seats.  'Brawnybug' quickly responded with a description and then a photo from his very original Super Sports: "Here's a picture of the material covering the floor and fender wells....  It's gray and stipple textured, kind of a linear pattern."
And there we left it.  This is the sort of thing that used to only happen among experts at the annual Crosley Club meets - now it's any time, and all out in a public forum, documented for everyone.   This has become THE site for Crosley nuts, and it's really pretty amazing.  The Crosley Gang rules!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Can You Identify These New Cars?

Found a copy of this great old Motorola auto radio ad on the HAMB. Can anyone identify N?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Curbside Classics' Brief Bio of the Crosley

Jeff Nelson over at the Curbside Classics blog recently offered up a concise and very accurate rundown of the Crosley story. Nice pictures, straightforward story, and best of all, no repetition of the common Crosley canards ('The Hot Shot's experimental sheet metal engine...') I find in 90% of the articles I see about Crosleys. 

Check it out here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Jersey Junk

Today I came across two separate reports of rusty Crosleys that are rotting away in the wilds of New Jersey.  First up was this CC sedan that HAMB user 'Lazlobasset' found mouldering into the dirt.  Car looks pretty straight and complete (note that the front badge is still there!) but I suspect the interior may not be as good as the rest.
The same spot had this half-a-CD. This one looks too far gone to be anything but yard art, but those grill bars seem to be pretty straight.  The owner of these (and a field of other neat stuff, like Cushman scooters) has been priced out of the area so these cars are for sale and will presumably be moving along soon.
On the Crosley Gang Yahoo Group, 'racerpete' posted some pics of a CD Crosley station wagon he found last weekend on top of an old delivery truck at a show at a South Jersey junkyard.  Hard to tell much from the photos, but since it's got roll up windows it may have been a 'Super' model.  That's an original 'flat top' hub cap, too.
Neat stuff, and good to know that Crosleys are still fertilizing the dirt of my home state...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hemmings Find: 1950 Crosley Hotshot For Sale in Maine

This clean '50 Hotshot popped up on the Hemmings Blog the other day.  It is supposed to be super solid and runs great.  Sure looks nice in the pictures.
Owner claims it was recently reawakened after a long storage, and that's kinda what it looks like.  Gauges and carpet appear to be faded, and the upholstery could definitely use some attention.  But, the paint looks pretty nice, it's got the accessory doors, and you can't argue with the radio in the dash. On the down side, I'm not sold on the red steering wheel, I think the taillight lenses are wrong and something looks weird about the rear gravel pan.
Seller is asking $7950, which would have been nuts just a couple of years ago, but prices on these have been going up.  I'd want to know if the floors and sills look as good as the rest of the car, and if it has the top assembly, but it might be worth a call for an East Coaster who knows how to haggle.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Vintage Picture: Kid and a Crosley

Today we've got a great vintage pic of a kid checking out the air conditioning on a CC (1946, '47 or '48) Sedan.  Sharp-eyed Cros fans will note that the car has the rare in dash radio, which makes sense since it's also sporting an antenna.  Crosley nut Doug Cottis bought the pic off Ebay and posted it in his 'Crosley Automobiles...  Fun Little Cars' Group on Facebook and gave me permission to share.

Thanks Doug!

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Crosley-Based Mystery Special from the HAMB - H-Mod???

HAMB user 'Mr Forty' just posted some pics of a handbuilt all-steel race body a friend of his had acquired a few years ago. It came with some Ford V860 heads and matching tranny, but no other running gear - or even any wheels! The measurements match up with Crosley components, and, as John McKnight quickly noted, the steering wheel is definitely Crosley. Hard to say from the pics, but the two largest holes in the dash look like they'd match Crosley gauges too.
The body came with a story (ah, don't they always?) Here's what the owner was told when he bought it:

"Sometime in the late 60's a long haul trucker was in Midwest when he spotted this body in a warehouse. The guy storing it wanted it out of the warehouse, the owner had not been paying storage on it for some time. He said it was a prototype sports car that Ford commissioned but all that was left was the body and a few other items. The trucker made a deal and brought the car back to California where it was stored for almost 40 years before my friend acquired it."

Uh huh. Well, If you count Edsel's personal 1934 Speedster Custom, Ford did make one car that kinda-sorta-but-not-really looked like this, but no one, including the current owner, believes this is a Ford prototype.
But, what is it? The steel bodywork is all leaded (no bondo) and from the description MrForty posted, it sounds like the frame could be Crosley too. Some HAMBers came to the same conclusion I did: it was probably conceived as a Crosley special and then had a V860 stuffed in when the builder realized exactly how heavy all that steel was.
Don't know if we'll ever solve the mystery, but if any group of folks can it will be the HAMB.  One way or the other it's a neat piece of work and MrForty is hoping his pal will build the car based on specials of the period. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, October 28, 2011

1952 Crosley Super Sedan For Sale is a fairly new website that basically cloned the Bring a Trailer model, albeit with a less distinct editorial voice.  Where BaT leans heavily toward driver-friendly sports cars, Barn Finds tends toward immaculately restored oldies with a smattering of exotics.  
What should pop up today but a resto/kustom 1952 Crosley Super Sedan in BRIGHT turquoise. Fit and finish look good in the pics, but the choice of materials on the door panels and seats aren't really to my taste.  I'm half mystified, half fascinated by the front bench seat.  Crosley buckets are easy to find, so this would seem to be an aesthetic choice.  I'd have to see how it works in person to comment, but I kinda like it, at least in theory.  I really wonder how much it restricts access to the rear seat?
 Bad news is that the seller, Exim Cars out of Lexington Kentucky is asking a whopping $10,500 for this baby.  That's about double what comparable cars have sold for recently.  Add in a radio, a full complement of Braje speed equipment, a shed full of spares and a baby food jar full of the original owner's tears and maybe you could get close to that amount.

But then what do I know? I'm a cheapskate - that's probably why I got into Crosleys in the first place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SOLD! Minus One Pickup Truck

This is the way you want your Ebay auto auction to end: a phone call from the buyer two minutes after the auction closes and the car being loaded on a trailer 24 hours later.
I listed the '48 pickup on Ebay just over a week ago and it got a LOT of attention... 2827 views, 85 watchers, two bids (one retracted) and a bunch of questions, although most of them came in less than an hour before the end of the auction.  (Who waits til the 23rd hour of the ninth day - of a 10 day auction - to ask the seller a question? Sorry I didn't answer, dudes - I didn't even see 'em til the auction was over.)
New owner Ron drove down from the Gold Country this morning to load 'er up.  He currently has a small fleet of vintage Mopars, but this is his first Crosley.  He told me he'd driven a Crosley exactly once in his life - the memory of piloting a '51 Crosley station wagon on a four lane freeway has haunted him for decades.

Since the auction had gone so smoothly there had to be a wrinkle, and when I went to get the truck out I discovered a flat tire.  I grabbed my hand pump to fill it back up, and after putting about eight pounds of air in the tire felt a peculiar 'grab' in the pump.  That was the cue that my $70 bike pump had seized up.   I could move the truck with one hand when the tires were up, but I could barely manage to push it to the street with the flat.  Luckily Ron had a winch for the trailer.
Ron's not sure exactly what he's going to do with the truck.  He seemed unfazed by the bodywork it's gonna need, and wondered aloud how a V8-60 would fit in the engine bay, so I suspect the little truck may be in for some extra horsepower at some point.

We got everything loaded up and I waved goodbye as the little truck headed off in the middle of that huge trailer.  I can hardly believe that it was only six weeks ago that I was heading to Salt Lake to pick it up, and that I've dragged it over 1000 miles since then.  It was all a fun adventure and I'm glad it's off to a good home.  With any luck I'll see it at next year's Crosley meet.   We'll see.

Friday, October 14, 2011

One 1948 Crosley Pick Up Truck FOR SALE!

Got the little truck cleaned up, got the parts organized, took some pictures and posted it here on Ebay.  Good luck to the bidders - this is somebody's dream winter project!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pickin' Up a Pickup Finale: Thunder Mountain

After getting the the truck on the trailer we loaded up on coffee for the road and headed west.  We didn't have a set itinerary, but we both had to be at work in less than 48 hours so we wanted to get as far along as possible before we stopped for the night.  We made good time - we would have made even better time if I hadn't stopped every hour or so to check the load.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pickin' Up a Pickup, Part III

OK, so I've said before that the last thing I need is ANOTHER Crosley project car.  So, then what am I doing driving 700 miles to buy a partially-disassembled rusty heap of a Crosley that hasn't run in decades?